by Jen H
A mini-memoir. My favorite memory of my Spanish romance with Manolo.
|"Ooh! A message!" I think when I see the tiny alert pop up on Facebook. I click the red square icon and begin to read. I stop short after the first word and lose my breath. "Hola," it says. That's all I need to see. After nine years, this is an unexpected correspondence. My chest aches with nostalgia and my heart races. My mind flips through our moments together like a stack of Polaroids I've kept. And I pause, as I always do when I remember Manolo, on my favorite one.|
He didn't speak any English, and my Spanish was far from perfect. We didn't share the same language or culture, but we had a powerful connection all the same.
We'd been dating for a week. I had three months left in my semester abroad in Spain, and perhaps we subconsciously felt the pressure of time. Our relationship didn't bloom like a flower so much as barrel ahead like a freight train. I wanted to be with him all the time. I missed him when we were apart.
On Saturday I went with my friend Nicolle to a dance club. I returned home exhausted at 3:30 A.M. I changed into my sweats, washed my face, and promptly fell into a deep sleep.
At 6:00 I was awakened by the bedroom door cracking open. A sliver of yellow light streamed in around my roommate Manisha's body. I saw only her silhouette in the hallway.
"Jen!" she whispered loudly, rousing me from my groggy state.
"What?!" I demanded, annoyed.
"Manolo's here!" she revealed with a giggle.
My mouth dropped open. "What?!" I repeated, surprised and now significantly more awake.
Manisha explained that she and her boyfriend Diego had seen Manolo at a bar. He'd asked Manisha where I was. She wasn't sure- she only knew I was out with Nicolle. He then proceeded to drag Manisha and Diego all over the city looking for me at our favorite hangouts.
Manisha finally had enough and asked Manolo to take her home. Manolo drove her to the apartment to drop her off, and decided to come up to see if I were there.
My fuzzy mind struggled to comprehend the gravity of the situation. I was in my sweats with no makeup, disheveled hair, and morning breath. This could not be happening. At this point, Manolo's silhouette appeared in the light behind Manisha's.
"Hola," he said shyly. Manisha left us and went back to Diego in the living room. Manolo flicked on the light, and I squinted in the brightness. He approached and sat next to me on my bed.
"Como estas?" he asked.
"Fine, just tired," I replied honestly, but with a smile.
"Sorry, I just wanted to see you," he apologized. He leaned over and gave me a kiss. "You are so beautiful," he whispered. I doubted that, given the current situation, but I appreciated it nonetheless.
He then said to me, "I need to learn some English."
"Okay!" I agreed. I love to teach, especially languages. "What first?"
"Tu tienes los ojos bonitos."
I grinned and translated, "You have beautiful eyes." I found a notepad, drew a line down the middle, and wrote the Spanish on one side, the English translation on the other.
"Yoo haf bew-tee-full ice," he pronounced carefully. He couldn't have been any cuter.
For a while, we sat on the bed and kissed. His lips were sweet and soft against mine, and he caressed my cheek with his gentle touch. Time passed, unacknowledged. The sun started to peek a soft, clear white around the edge of the dark curtain. Diego knocked on the door, bringing us back to earth. "Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yeah- one minute." Manolo grabbed the notepad and wrote a sentence on the Spanish side. He handed it to me without a word and smiled nervously as I read it.
My hands trembled slightly as he asked, "How do you say it?"
"Creo que me estoy enamorando," I read aloud. I wrote the translation on the paper and, heart beating wildly, pronounced, "I think I am falling in love."
He stood up, walked to the door and repeated, "I theenk I ahm fallink een loff." Then he snuck out the door before I could respond.
A smile crosses my face as I recall that moment with my old boyfriend. Our romance burned hot, but extinguished quickly. We were young, and I had a lot of traveling left in me before I wanted to settle down. We left things on good terms when I had to go back to America. We both knew it couldn't last forever. I have always thought of him fondly since those days in Spain.
The message I receive on Facebook isn't earth-shattering news. "Hi Jen, what's up? How's your Spanish coming along? A kiss, Manolo." But what it says isn't important. I feel so happy he has taken the time to contact me, and though our lives have moved on, it feels nice to know he must flip through that stack of Polaroids and smile every once in a while, too.